- Type of industry: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
- Website: www.aerialtronics.com/en
- Focus pilot: PENSAR: computer vision platform
- More details on pilot results: Report Aerialtronics
Technologies to develop autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are central in the case of Aerialtronics.
The company focuses on specific technologies that allow the drone to operate more independently from an operator and aims to sell the drones for professional and commercial tasks, such as monitoring and small maintenance tasks carried out for instance by police, fire departments or industrial inspection and maintenance companies.
In the Autumn of 2017, the company is acquired by Drone Volt, a French manufacturer of commercial drones. With the acquisition of the knowledge base of Aerialtronics, Drone Volt can further develop the drone technology and include specific technologies, specifically in the field of security. Aerialtronics has developed professional drones that are equipped with technology to monitor and survey by drawing on artificial intelligence and big data analytics
The technology we focus on in this project is the PENSAR: a dual spectrum computer vision platform that is mounted to a drone. The PENSAR can capture images and data and analyse it real-time by making use of reading text or thermal vision. This helps the operator of the drone, for instance to recognize characteristics, read license plates of cars or serial numbers of equipment immediately in the course of performing monitoring tasks.
The operator can also get more insights with daylight and thermal vision overlaid on one screen in real-time. This makes the drone a piece of equipment that can perform specific tasks very well with a high level of detail and a potential intrusion in the private lives of people, especially when operating in urban areas. Due to this, the PENSAR is equipped with a special privacy masking tool. This tool automatically and instantly blurs the details of sensitive data such as the privacy of bystanders.
Interview with Timothy van Langeveld, head legal council and regulatory affairs
‘I think the main lesson that we have learned from the pilot is you can’t innovate in a vacuum. We have tried to do it for some time but you need others. You get the best results when you involve others’
Recommendations: build confidence and trust.
We conducted a number of interviews with company representatives, experts in both university and government and stakeholder organization. The advice we have is to follow two strategies in parallel:
- The first strategy is to build confidence in the technology.
Having drones that collect big data and operate more autonomously maybe be perceived as unwanted by users and bystanders. However, the technology can help authorities and inspection companies in the monitoring, surveying and maintenance activities. The question to be answered in this strategy aims at how can we be build trust and test the vison cameras in public spaces, and how do we inform bystanders and authorities about the sue of these equipment.
We advised working closely with civil aviation roads authorities, and considering how other road-users can be given informed expectations about their behaviour. One organisation useful to this task is the national CAA. They have workgroups that discuss the implementation of new legislation concerning the autonomous and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The focus should not only be on this organisation because we advise the company to build a sense of urgency, that for society there is a lot to gain if the legislation for autonomous drones is passed. The safety of large groups of users, the monitoring of crowd management, people at events or traffic at streets can be increased and the authorities can take immediate measures to safeguard the actions of people. By building a sense of urgency, the authorities can better make a trade-off of the pros and cons of the technology.
- The second strategy is building legitimacy
Building legitimacy should go hand-in-hand with building a life case for implementing the PENSAR vision platform for a lead user. We advise the lead user to be a government organisation, such as the police or the local municipality when it concerns crowd management. The inclusion of stakeholders can be tested then when the lead user is a known and trusted organization that uses the technologies to help the people and safeguard them when they attend an event. Out advice is also not to use the technology immediately for traffic control or to use it for sanctioning or controlling people’s behaviour. When it is used in the case of the latter, the stakeholders will be fuelled with arguments that the technology is breaking into the personal lives of people and is misused.